Coronavirus comes to CPAC. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)—held just outside Washington, D.C., two weekends ago—attendees mocked media and Democrats for their reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak. Conferencegoers told a Hannity correspondent that Democrats were deliberately freaking out over nothing in order "to make the economy tank" and to make President Donald Trump look bad. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the disease's dangers were being overhyped because "they think this will bring down the president." And the president himself said onstage that the notion they weren't well prepared for a pandemic was a "hoax" being perpetuated by the Democrats.
CPAC attendees had better hope that Trump was right.
On Saturday, conference organizers announced that at least one attendee had been tested positive for the disease. The organization didn't say much more than that, assuring attendees that the infected person hadn't been in the main part of the event.
But as more information comes out, it seems the infected attendee was still in contact with quite a lot of people, spending time in the CPAC "green room" (where speakers and panelists hang out before taking the stage) and possibly attending a CPAC dinner. The many people passing in and out of the green room included White House officials, members of Congress, political organizers, and TV pundits.
Vice President Mike Pence and four other members of the president's coronavirus task force all gave addresses at CPAC.
Some at CPAC know that they had contact directly with the infected person (whose identity is not being revealed). This includes CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp (who would have been in contact with people all over the event), Rep. Paul Gosar (R–Ariz.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas).
Gosar and Cruz have announced that they're self-quaranting themselves.
1. I am announcing that I, along with 3 of my senior staff, are officially under self-quarantine after sustained contact at CPAC with a person who has since been hospitalized with the Wuhan Virus. My office will be closed for the week.
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) March 9, 2020
Today I released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/XGXEa4ozcg
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 8, 2020
Some CPAC attendees are angry about what they see as too little information, too late, from CPAC organizers.
I have now spoken to a number of people who were in/around the green room at CPAC when the attendee with coronavirus was there.
People are apoplectic about how they have not been better informed of what happened.
The attendee was there for much of Thursday at LEAST…
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) March 9, 2020
Meanwhile, Trump is still insisting there's nothing to see here:
The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, "The risk is low to the average American."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
On Friday, he asked "Does anybody die from the flu? I didn't know people died from the flu." (Trump's grandfather died of the flu.)
As for how his administration has been handling the outbreak, the evidence isn't reassuring. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totally botched its first round of coronavirus tests. Yet no one else could even attempt their own tests, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"FDA rules initially prevented state and commercial labs from developing their own coronavirus diagnostic tests," notes the MIT Technology Review:
The CDC and FDA reversed course and lifted this rule on February 29, and commercial and academic labs are now allowed to participate….This week, state and commercial labs began testing on their own. We're already seeing major steps forward; the University of Washington, for instance, has a new diagnostic that will allow it to test 1,500 samples a day. A group in Japan claims to have a test that can detect the virus in just 10 to 30 minutes.
"The great strength the US has always had, not just in virology, is that we've always had a wide variety of people and groups working on any given problem," says Jerome. "When we decided all coronavirus testing had to be done by a single entity, even one as outstanding as CDC, we basically gave away our greatest strength."
Thankfully, private institutions are stepping up to fill the gaps left by government testing schemes:
Bill Gates Foundation will begin offering home-testing coronavirus testing kits in Seattle area that will allow people to send nose-swab samples back for analysis
Results w/in 1-2 days will be shared w/local health officials who notify those test positive https://t.co/vD025EMRIV
— Maggie Jordan (@MaggieJordanACN) March 8, 2020
- Kamala Harris endorses Joe Biden:
.@JoeBiden has served our country with dignity and we need him now more than ever. I will do everything in my power to help elect him the next President of the United States. pic.twitter.com/DbB2fGWpaa
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 8, 2020
- It's still illegal to curse in Arlington, Virginia.
- U.S. prisons aren't ready for a coronavirus outbreak:
1. U.S. prisons and jails are already death-machines. Adding a deadly virus will almost surely exacerbate things and produce a mass catastrophe. https://t.co/vFYfyP4i1s.
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) March 8, 2020
- Markets aren't taking kindly to the coronavirus situation:
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) March 9, 2020
- When (all alone!) in Rome…
Rome without tourists. This is surreal. pic.twitter.com/IhKODhKsGv
— Courtney Mares (@catholicourtney) March 7, 2020